Friday, June 30, 2006

Sean on the internet radio

Later today I'll be the guest of Melinda Pillsbury-Foster on her show The Spiritual Politician on at 7pm Eastern time (4pm Pacific). Just click on "How to Listen" in the left frame.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

update tour

I updated all my beautiful links, something long overdue.

Added links for the NC Open Elections Coalition and our petition, and removed the links to the LP Bylaws Committee work since the convention is close at hand.

New links to the two campaigns for which I serve as Treasurer, George Phillies and Mike Munger.

More news and tools for you, starting with my dear friend Lee Wrights and the ISIL Choice Channel. Plus lots of neat new totally cool stuff coming from our national party, the Libertarian Leadership School, LPedia a collaborative history of the LP, and the brilliantly outsourced LP Stuff.

I also rewarded the Libertarian Reform Caucus for actually starting to make some sense. Top example: Carl Milsted's spot on The Late Great Libertarian Bait and Switch, something I wish all LP members would take to heart.

Gotta give some love to the Matt Cave. Not only does Matt Mittan have me and Lee on his show frequently, it's a great daily site for freedom-oriented news affecting NC.

My definition of NC Libertarian blogs is as loose as possible, including people who have moved away but still one of us, like Seth Anthony, and folks in NC who have been nice to us (and to freedom!) even though they aren't Libertarians, like Matt Hill.

A couple of new interesting blogs outside NC, including another effort from Cato Institute and some righteous rants from Melinda Pillsbury-Foster.

I also removed one link because the author is a flaming jerk who will never be spoken of again here, and Harry Browne's because, well, he died. There just ain't no justice in this life.

One little quirk, blogs are in order of the main author's last name, with the exception of Hammer of Truth and Third Party Watch because they totally rock.

Happy reading!

Press Conference and Public Forum for NC Ballot Access

A press release from Brian Irving. I will be there!

Political parties, electoral reform groups unite to Free the Ballot in North Carolina

A diverse group of political parties and nonprofit organizations is asking the North Carolina General Assembly to establish fair requirements for independent and third-party candidates who wish to run for partisan office in the state.

The coalition, which includes Libertarians, Greens and members of the Constitution Party, calls North Carolina's ballot access restrictions prohibitive and supports the passage of the Electoral Fairness Act of 2005 (House Bill 88) in its original form.

"We may have different political views, but we all believe North Carolina would have a healthier system if it allowed more people to participate in elections," said Hart Matthews, director of the NC Green Party.

Respected nonprofit organizations from the across the state, including Common Cause North Carolina, Democracy North Carolina and North Carolina Public Interest Research Group (NCPIRG), join these third parties in asking the legislature to open North Carolina's elections to its citizens.

Press Conference:
Announcing the formation of the NC Open Elections Coalition and answering questions about the state's ballot access laws.
9am, Tuesday, June 27
Senate Press Room
NC General Assembly Legislative Building, Jones St., Raleigh

Public Forum:
"Left Out and Kept Out"
A discussion of North Carolina's restrictive ballot access laws
7pm, Monday, June 26
Founder's Hall
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh
3313 Wade Avenue, Raleigh

North Carolina has the third most restrictive ballot access requirements for political parties in the nation. These barriers prevent any third party from successfully maintaining a consistent presence in the political arena.

The Electoral Fairness Act of 2005 (House Bill 88) in its original form would have reduced by three-fourths the signatures required for a third party to be certified in North Carolina. Currently, a third party must raise more than 69,000 signatures.

Because one-third of petition signatures cannot be verified, a third party must raise roughly 105,000 signatures, or one signature for every 73 residents of the state, to be assured of getting onto North Carolina's ballot. No third party has ever met that requirement without the use of professional petitioners.

As it was introduced, House Bill 88 would reduce that requirement to one-half of one percent, or roughly 17,000 verified signatures, an improvement that would still leave North Carolina in the top-20 most restrictive states.

House Bill 88 passed out of two House committees by unanimous vote last year. On the last day of the session, at 2:30 a.m., Rep. Phil Haire (D-Sylva) introduced an amendment that restored the signature requirements to their current level. The bill passed the House in that form.

Because the deadline for submitting signatures has been moved forward four months, House Bill 88 in its current form would make third party ballot access even more difficult.

But getting onto the ballot in North Carolina is not the hardest part. A third party that achieves ballot access must still poll 10 percent in the gubernatorial or presidential race to stay on the ballot. That has happened only once in the last century, which means that in all likelihood a third party must start over every four years.

The Electoral Fairness Act would have reduced the vote threshold from 10 percent to 2 percent, but that improvement was also torpedoed by Rep. Haire's early morning amendment.

The NC Open Elections Coalition asks the NC General Assembly to restore House Bill 88 to its original form and pass it without further amendment.

"People vote when they feel they can make a difference," said Matthews. "In a state where less than half of eligible adults vote, we should be doing everything we can to increase the choices on the ballot."

"These ballot barriers limit voter choice, result in many candidates running unopposed and suppress voter turnout," said Brian Irving of the Libertarian Party of North Carolina. "It's time to restore free, fair and open elections to North Carolina."

House Bill 88 currently resides in the NC Senate Judiciary I Committee.

For more facts and resources on ballot access requirements, visit the NC Open Elections Coalition.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Here's the latest for LFA by Don Meinshausen. Don is currently imprisoned at FCI Ft.Dix, as he puts it, "for his unorthodox interpretation of the First Amendment and the doctrine of free enterprise (or as the state says it, conspiracy to distribute hemp and MDMA)." Don would love to hear any feedback you have for him. You can send him a letter to: Don Meinshausen, Inmate #08496-050, FCI Ft Dix Box 1000, Ft Dix NJ 08640. Contributions to Don's commissary fund can be sent to: Lockbox, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Don Meinshausen, Inmate Register Number 08496-050, PO Box 474701, Des Moines IA 50947-0001. (They only accept money orders and money grams.) Don expects to be released in 2008.


We have been under a state of siege for awhile. You could say we have been sent to our rooms for being naughty. They don’t tell us why these things happen, they just happen.

As near as I can figure out the new warden issued a new set of rules that were a little more obnoxious than the usual petty bullshit. They cut evening visiting hours, limited how many sets of underwear people can have and more of the usual “necessary rules for the order of the prison.” Now some people, including some of the black inmates, said the warden was compensating for being black, short and maybe even gay. I don’t know if this is true. Ask Condoleezza Rice.

The inmates replied with the mildest protest imaginable. They did not go to meals. I did not protest. I did not even know about it even though I work in the dining hall. Despite my reputation I prefer to let the grassroots move first and then offer my services. I also pick my issues very carefully and this issue although close to home was not enough to move on. People far wiser than myself and more practiced in working against the system said to hang back and wait to be asked to participate.

So for a week we have been more or less confined to our building. No recreation, work, gym, library or even chapel. Two or three hundred guys were packed up and sent to SHU or even to prisons unknown where it will be practically impossible to contact them again.

The CO’s had a lot of overtime. We had a lot of spare time. Time passes. Nothing to really be concerned about. Terror alert yellow. Bullshit alert orange. Tyranny alert red.

The only reason to pay attention to stories like this is to find the ominous parallels in everyday life. Things get tight, get a little looser but never as free as before, then get even tighter again. No explanations are offered, or real ones anyway. Those who complain are sent off, punished or ignored. Still it is important to understand what is happening, expand contacts and to know when, how and where to react against the unknown force which does not even know itself.

The searches of our belongings (shakedowns) and of our persons (patdowns) that accompany the lockdown are over, at least for now. The only thing left of the experience is the feeling of being “down,” as in hunkered down awaiting the next attack on our liberty, possessions and persons. They want you to expect, not protect against, the next violation. The justice system with its prisons is to educate the American public as well as aspiring immigrants about the real nature of the state: to punish those who act against it.

Here one does not hear such bromides as “it’s a free country.” No talk about how the system knows better than you or has your interests at heart. There is no rehabilitation here even for those who need it. There is also no efficiency, honesty or kindness either. It is the same on the outside as well. It’s just more open here.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

How to elect an LNC

Here's my latest for LFA:

Since I’m not going to be able to go to Portland, I haven’t invested much thought into who should be elected to the next Libertarian National Committee (LNC). But after serving on that body for two years and covering it as a reporter for two more, I have put quite a lot of thought into what kind of people we should entrust with that responsibility.

We elect people to the LNC for every reason except the right ones. We pick them because we like them or, worse still, because they have a good record as an activist. Those are useful skills to be sure, but they are pretty much irrelevant when it comes to making the kinds of decisions which face a board of directors.

First we need to be clear about what the LNC does. Or more to the point, what it doesn’t do. The LNC is the board of directors of a business: LNC, Inc. Their job is to administer the party so it can survive and grow financially. They do not do the political work of the party. They create and maintain the structure which allows the rest of us to do that and call it “the Libertarian Party.”

Being a good board member requires a rather disparate skill set, and few of those skills are apparent on the surface. The most essential skill is a well developed sense of fiduciary responsibility. This is generally something you aren’t born with but have to learn through experience.

If a candidate for LNC has a record of success in business or administration already, that’s a good sign. (The closest I think I’ll come to endorsing anybody this time around is to point out that having earned a title such as “Admiral” is a great example of this principle.) If the candidate simply has some good sounding ideas that surely will make the party grow like topsy, you should probably look at them a little more skeptically.

Have they ever served on another board of directors, and if so how successful is that organization? Have they ever run a business themselves or had a major managerial responsibility for one? Or have they ever managed a campaign or a state party that actually raised and spent a lot of money to good effect?

There are two basic sales messages, hope and fear. People who sell themselves with a fear message do not possess the quality of fiduciary responsibility we need right now. Let’s face it, while it is nice not to be on the verge of bankruptcy for an extended period of time the LNC has been running pretty flat lately. We’ve been subsisting on about $1.5 million a year for too long. We have to grow significantly if this party has any hope of really changing public policy.

Someone who tells you that we need to protect what little we have is dooming us to oblivion. We need risk-takers, people who understand that we must be bold to start raising the kind of money that makes us competitive with the Democrats and Republicans. That’s why a record of fiduciary responsibility is so valuable. If a person has taken the big money risks required in running a business and been successful, that’s the kind of person we need now on the LNC.

The fear message is also a big fat negative when applied to our party’s ideology. In order to grow this party, we need to make newcomers from other parties feel welcome. We need to expand our tent so more people can feel comfortable calling themselves Libertarians, not be so closely guarding our purity that we drive people away when they show some curiosity.

This is not done so much with issues, but is more of a cultural perspective. Be wary of big ideas from LNC candidates, especially if they involve politics. Politics is not the LNC’s job. They hire staff for that. A couple big warning signs are if a candidate for LNC is pushing strong ideas about what political stands the party should take or what staff should be doing with their time. Instead look for signs that a candidate understands how to hire good people and cultivate good activists who can be trusted to stake out solid Libertarian political ground. They need the LNC’s support, not its management.

One virtue that serves anyone well in pretty much any context is playing nice with others. Here the candidate’s record of activism is worth examining. Is their activism more of the lone wolf variety, or have they put together campaigns and coalitions which attract happy volunteers? Do they listen to others and sometimes even admit that they made a mistake? Are they quick to move beyond criticism or do they make it clear that smashing their critics is an essential part of their activism? How patient are they when explaining what they do to others? Can they cite examples where they delegated important tasks and then let the new person do them without micromanaging?

Pretty much every candidate for LNC is going to be touting their record of activism because that’s pretty much all we’ve got to show for ourselves. Good activists can definitely become good board members. It’s just that there’s no cause and effect here. It’s equally true that great activists can become truly horrible board members, and it happens to us far far too often.

Just because someone does one thing well does not mean they will do everything well, and few have all it takes to be a good board member. The record of activism itself means nothing when it comes time to sit at the LNC table and exercise some fiduciary responsibility. But how one conducts their activism can answer a lot of questions about whether the candidate is suited for this particular work.

Yes I know that all elections are a popularity contest. The fact that getting along well with others is an essential political skill is equally undeniable. But in this context, the candidate is not your friend. There are a lot of people I love very dearly and I would support them in just about anything they wanted to do, but dear Lord I would never give them a vote for public or private office. If you’re really worried that you might hurt somebody’s feelings if you vote for their opponent, that’s probably a strong signal that you shouldn’t vote for them. When deciding who deserves your vote, the further you can put your personal likings for the various candidates out of your mind the more likely your vote will be wisely cast.

Anyone who runs for any position of responsibility has to ask themselves one question – do they want to rule or to serve? People who are running for the LNC must above all prove they understand that this party is run by its members, not by the LNC. You aren’t choosing a friend, a colleague, a ruler or a manager. You are electing your servants.

I hate it that I’ll be missing the convention. I’m sure everyone who does attend will have a great time. Choose wisely for all of us.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

NC Open Elections Coalition

From my dear friend and colleague Brian Irving:

Dear Friends of Liberty,

Did you know that North Carolina has arguably the most restrictive ballot access laws in the nation. That third parties, after collecting roughly 100,000 signatures to get on the ballot, routinely lose their ballot access each election cycle? Perhaps you do know that North Carolina ranks in the bottom fifteen states in terms of voter turnout?

This November, more than half of all state legislative races will have only one candidate. Opening the ballot to independents and third parties is one way North Carolina could increase ballot choice, citizen interest and voter turnout. (An independent redistricting committee, same-day voter registration and legislative ethics reform are other important steps to bolster citizen participation.)

The Electoral Fairness Act of 2005 (House Bill 88) was initially designed to reduce the burden on third parties and independent candidates. It would have reduced the signatures required for ballot access by three-fourths and the votes needed to remain on the ballot by four-fifths. House Bill 88 passed two House committees unanimously last year, but it was amended early in the morning on the last day of the legislative session and passed in a form that would make getting on the ballot even more difficult for third parties.

Visit this page to sign a petition asking the NC General Assembly to pass House Bill 88 in its original form.

At 69,734 verified signatures, North Carolina's ballot access requirement for political parties is the third most restrictive in the nation. A federal court recently overturned North Carolina's signature requirement for independent candidates, which stood at roughly 100,000, the second highest in the country.

A great majority of states require 10,000 or fewer signatures for independent candidates to get on the statewide ballot. Many states require 10,000 or fewer signatures for political parties as well, and nine states require 5,000 or fewer signatures for both independents and parties.

As it was amended at the end of the long session, the Electoral Fairness Act would preserve the state's current signature requirement for third parties (69,734 verified signatures) and move the signature deadline forward four months, effectively making ballot access even more difficult.

We can do something about North Carolina's restrictive elections process. Ask your state legislators to improve voter participation in North Carolina. Ask them to restore House Bill 88 to its original form!

Click here to sign the petition today!

Brian Irving
NC Open Elections Coalition

* * * * *

Free the Ballot!

North Carolina Ballot Access Facts:

- North Carolina has the third most restrictive signature requirements for political parties in the nation (69,734 verified signatures) and, until the state's individual requirement was overturned in federal court, the second most restrictive for independent candidates.

- More than two-thirds of U.S. states require 10,000 or fewer signatures for independent ballot access.

- Twenty-one states, including South Carolina and Maryland, require 10,000 or fewer signatures for political parties.

- Nine states require 5,000 or fewer signatures for both parties and independents.

- Because roughly one-third of all signatures cannot be validated, a political party in North Carolina must raise more than 104,601 signatures to be sure of getting ballot access. That's one signature for every 73 people in the state.

- Our tax money pays county board-of-elections officials to verify every one of those petition signatures.

- No third party has ever met the North Carolina signature requirement without the use of professional petitioners.

- After each four-year election cycle, if a third party does not receive ten percent of the vote for governor or president, the party is de-certified and has to start all over again.

- The Libertarian Party of North Carolina has been certified eight times, often spending nine months and $100,000 on the effort, only to start again after the gubernatorial election.

Join the NC Open Elections Coalition in demanding free, fair and open elections in North Carolina! Sign the petition now!